SOIL - THE FOUNDATION OF TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS

Healthy soil is the foundation of any terrestrial ecosystem. It is where the first link in the food chain gets its nutrients from. Healthy soils are infused with a cocktail of organic carbon from fecal matter and decomposed plants or animals, oxygen, water, and minerals essential for life. These elements provide the perfect habitat for the first level of the food chain. Bacteria and fungi live in the soil as well. Their role will be explained later in the lesson.
 
Soils are the source of nutrients and energy for the living part of ecosystems. When plants establish in soil they change its composition by adding more organic carbon and nutrients during photosynthesis. This increase in nutritious resources allows for more plants to establish in the soil, and in turn more animals can inhabit the area because there are enough resources for them. 

Healthy soils have a huge impact on the ecosystem’s ability to store energy, water, and nutrients; the three basic resources that support life. The interactions between microorganisms (living things you can’t see by eye) and macroorganisms (living things you can see) move these resources into various forms to support a variety of different organisms.

Animals don’t all share the same diet; plants don’t have mouths to eat food as we do. So having resources in different forms supports a more diverse ecosystem.

Now that we have healthy soil, what happens next?

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GLOSSARY OF TERMS

 

Abiotic components: 
Non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems.

Amino acid:
A structural unit that builds proteins.  

Autotrophs:
An organism that is able to form nutritional organic substances from simple inorganic substances such as carbon dioxide.

Biotic:
Any living component that affects another organism or shapes the ecosystem.

Carnivore:
An animal that feeds on flesh.

Consumers:
Organisms that need to eat (i.e., consume) food to obtain their energy.

​Decomposers:
Organisms that breaks down dead organic material.

Detritivores:
Heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by consuming dead and decaying organisms.

Ecology:
The study of interactions between biotic and abiotic factors that influence their location, population, and distribution.

Ecosystem:
A community of living organisms that live in and interact with each other and their environment.

Essential nutrients:
Nutrients required for normal physiological function that cannot be created within our body.

Fossil Fuel:
A natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.

Herbivores:
An animal that feeds on plants.

Heterotrophs:
An organism that eats other plants or animals for energy and nutrients.

Nature:
The phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth.

Omnivores:
An animal that eats both plants and animals.

Organism:
A form of life.

Photosynthesis:
The process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.

Primary Consumers:
Organisms that eat the primary producer.

Producers:
Organisms that make their own food.

Saprovores:
An organism that decomposes organic matter outside their body using enzymes.

Secondary Consumers:
Organisms that eat primary consumers for energy.

Trophic Level:
A group of species that share the same link in the food chain/ food web.

Trophic pyramid:
Explains the movement and amount of energy passed through the food chain.

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